What can we expect in the world of music in 2009? As I am a lawyer for musicians and not a music critic for musician, I cannot predict which band is going to make it big nor can I even wager a guess as to who is 2009’s Soulja Boy (please don’t let there be another one). What I can do, however, is perhaps offer a sneak peek as to what the hot button legal and business issues will be this year.
This year we are bound to see more lost jobs, closed doors and consolidations in the music business than what we saw last year. Depressing as it may sound, its better to be honest then to live in denial. The industry is in shambles and was headed that way even before the global economic meltdown. However, all is not lost my friends. The advantage that music and entertainment have over banking and auto makers, is that there are truly talented and creative people in the entertainment world. You cannot teach talent. In addition to talented individuals, the entertainment industry has another key advantage: a hungry public. When you combine talented and innovative people with a public who craves new, creative and unique ways of being entertained, you have a great market for sales and growth.
Here is some hard evidence for you: According to Soundsacn, 2008 saw a drop of 14% from 2007 for album sales with the real anchor being physical cd sales plummeting by 18.2%. The upside: digital downloads. Digital albums skyrocketed to a gain 32% over sales in 2007. As if we didn’t already know, these stats offer further proof that even though the CD is a dinosaur, the industry is not extinct.
Creative artists and management offering unique digital downloads can still make quite a bit of money. The best thing about the death of the CD is that it also means the death of sneaky “manufacturing expenses” and “hold back” clauses in recording agreements. Labels cannot (although they may still try to) charge an artist huge manufacturing costs and hold back’s or reserves for returned or damaged CDs when the artist is releasing a strictly digital album. Lowered expenses and increased downloads at fair prices equals more revenue. Artists who follow the digital revolution will continue to make money in the rocky economy.
Along the same line of thought, without the need for CD manufacturing and distribution, the need for a label further diminishes. An artist and a capable management team can hire the appropriate digital distribution company, marketing company and PR company and achieve the same gains as a label without the cost of losing ownership of the artist’s music and a lousy royalty split.
So my predictions for 2009 are that we will see even more innovative and creative ways to get music to the public. CD sales will decline even more and digital downloads (singles, albums, ringtones, videos) will continue to increase. Music will come in packaged deals for other products people are still buying: dvd movies, beverage sales (think energy drinks), computer and video games, sneakers, bikes, and more will include exclusive tracks of musicians who are truly on top of their game. Labels will continue to die or at least slip further into a darkening coma. The independent do-it-yourself artist will continue to make great strides getting her music to more people. Bottom line, more music will be available to more people via new and exciting mechanisms. Should be fun.